College students are often challenged with striking a balance between studying, maintaining an active social life, and taking on adult responsibilities that come along with living on your own.
While parents, advisors and peer counselors have probably cautioned you about many of the challenges you may encounter during your college years, you may not have had much discussion about human papillomavirus, or HPV.
Here’s the deal about HPV:
1. HPV is more common than you may think. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV, and there are approximately 14 million new HPV infections in the United States each year. Nearly half of these infections occur in people ages 15-24. For most people, HPV clears on its own. But for others who don’t clear the virus, it can cause certain pre-cancers, cancers, and other diseases in women and men. And there is no way to predict who will or won’t clear the virus.
2. Certain types of HPV cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar pre-cancers and cancers in females and other HPV types cause genital warts and anal cancer in males and females.
3. Exposure to HPV can happen with any kind of sexual activity that involves genital contact with someone who has HPV — intercourse isn’t necessary, but it is the most common way to get the virus. Because HPV often has no visible signs or symptoms, anyone can get the virus or pass the virus on without even knowing it. It may take only one sexual encounter to be infected with HPV. There is no treatment for HPV infection.
4. Although HPV-related cancers can develop very slowly and may not occur until later in life, many people who do develop these cancers may have been exposed to cancer-causing HPV types in their teens and 20s.
For more information about HPV, speak with your health care provider or visit your campus health center to learn more about ways to help prevent certain HPV-related cancers and diseases, including vaccination.